Analysing the concept of conflicting front wing concepts

A serious tale about blue bulls, red horses and a grey donkey, who couldn’t jump to as high places as those, because he wasn’t flexible enough

Martin Whitmarsh:
“I am surprised that one element, which should be 85mm above the track, is actually much lower. The FIA needs to make things absolutely clear – or we are lagging behind. If clarification does not come, we too can suddenly become very inventive and creative.”

Gary Anderson:
“McLaren’s wing is very stiff. This highlights something that is more important when looking at flex-wings than overall downforce and the benefit of ground effect at the front of the car. When the airflow stalls on the McLaren front wing, the loading on the suspension is reduced and it extends, allowing the car to rise. The wing will then start working again and pull the car down.

For Red Bull and Ferrari, who both have flexible wings, when the airflow separates, the wing simply deflects less and between bending and airflow separation it finds a happy medium. This leaves the suspension more or less untouched and makes for a much more stable car. In the TV pictures, the Red Bull front wing moves a lot while the car stays stable. By contrast, when you see the McLaren, the whole car is bouncing up and down.

There was a rumor or assumption, cited to AMuS, that the (current) McLaren front wing concept couldn’t adapt the flexi-wing concept.

That may be true, but not in that interpretation this year’s McLaren couldn’t get a flexi front wing at all. So in what interpretation?

The closer the front wing to the ground, the better, on every car including the MP4-25. On top of that Gary Anderson makes a serious point why the flexing is very useful and why the rigid front wing hurts McLaren royally compared to their biggest rivals Red Bull and Ferrari. It’s about stability and handling, not just downforce.

On a sidenote: but then why the McLaren front wing is so rigid? For the same reason why it is so rigid on other teams’ cars too. For example the Mercedes GP wing as rigid as McLaren’s. Because there are a serious technical rule, and a very serious power for the FIA to prosecute every suspected flexing on the bodywork.

Formula One Technical Regulations:

3.15 Aerodynamic influence :

With the exception of the cover described in Article 6.5.2 (when used in the pit lane), the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :

– must comply with the rules relating to bodywork ;

– must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom) ;

– must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.

Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances.

No part having an aerodynamic influence and no part of the bodywork, with the exception of the skid block in 3.13 above, may under any circumstances be located below the reference plane.

Article 3.17.8 puts in perspective how serious this rule is:

3.17.8 In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.

What I have quoted at the start of the blog post, the sarcastic expression of Martin Whitmarsh means that, if these rules won’t be enforced by the FIA, McLaren will start to add flexing parts to the car.

You don’t have to look back too much in the past to remember that flexing aero was always a hot topic. 2007 – moveable floors, 2008 – flexing bridge wings. They used to get noticed, prosecuted and banned. What Red Bull does, isn’t an invention and clearly illegal after reading the above quoted rules.

It is too much! - Captain Obvious says. The FIA understood this, but facing a trouble to eliminate it.

It constanty breaches the 3.15 which is a serious principal rule, respected by the majority of the teams, and it clearly “appears to be (or is suspected of)” [3.17.8] purposefully and beneficially flexing whilst the car is in motion, so the FIA has every rights to eliminate it with freely changeable examining and testing procedures.

My fellow countryman, Penti, who is an architect, analysed the flexi front wing of the RB6 and has given us a very sound concept, what he thinks one potential and simple way to achieve, what Red Bull does to pass the load test and flex the wing while the car is moving. It is a serious candidate to be the trick for real. I’m sure, in the next months the truth about the wing trick will come into the light, will be widely known for the public, and it will be enforced to be abandoned by the teams for the next year.

Penti’s theory can explain many things, why Red Bull Racing isn’t worried of the increased FIA testing load. Because it’ll be still a static vertical test, and in that state the wing as rigid as other generic wings.

Practically it may be very hard and time consuming for the FIA to create a testing method which could reveal the trick, if they have no serious clue, why their current testing method is fooled. Also it may be time consuming to introduce new tests in a diplomatic way. For Spa they thought they will eliminate non-linear flexing with their tweak to the load test.

That won’t really bother the front wing concept of the RB6, because it’s made from linear flexing material, its rigidity which isn’t constant and depends on frontal, horizontal load, what’s not existing in the deflection test of the FIA.

I highlighted the word “construction” in Article 3.15. That’s a key, why the wing is illegal and why the FIA try to find a testing way to ban it. They cannot just say, we saw on Darren Heath’s photos and FOM’s videos your wing is flexing extremely so please make it rigid as other teams did.

Fixed bridge wings (of Williams, Renault, McLaren and Toyota cars) - Montreal, Canada 2008

You can remember, in 2008 it was solved this way for the bridge wings, when for the Canadian GP the teams were asked to attach the middle part of the bridge wing to the nose. Case was closed.

Such simple solutions couldn’t be achieved for the current situation, despite the current rule abusing is a more serious benefit.

The FIA facing a challenge to enforce the rules and simply they can’t have as much clever minds as the car designing teams have.

If we’re at the subject of the 2008 bridge wings; that’s another reason why the McLaren respect the 3.15. They’re afraid of the FIA too much, but they have to stop being shy anymore if the FIA remains incompetent to examine the wings correctly.

If the area won’t be clarified, McLaren “too can suddenly become very inventive and creative” in flexing aerodynamic devices.

There are discussions on F1 boards about conflicting concepts involving rake, sensitive diffusers and so. Some fans think McLaren can’t have flexi wings at all. That’s rubbish, and this article cites numerous reasons against it.

Yes, a flexi front wing is hard to get for every rigid teams, but it isn’t really about rake and sensitive diffuser. So what’s the conflict between the concepts, what AMuS may refer to. That McLaren needs a COMPLETELY new wing to achive FIA test-passing flexibility. It’s about the construction concept of the wing. They cannot simply make their current wing less rigid in its material, because then it couldn’t pass the FIA test. They would need to make a very new wing, which has an adaptive nature. The current one doesn’t have that.

Penti has told us the trick is very simple in its concept (that’s why it’s brilliant), but requires to design a completely new wing for everyone who want to follow Red Bull. That’s too expensive and there isn’t too much time for it as only 7 races to go. It isn’t worth it for most of the teams, except McLaren who are in contention for the titles.

And yet another point, which backs up this claim. Ferrari has introduced a completely new wing to follow flexing suit.

So I think, if the FIA remains lame to understand and ban the concept behind the wing, McLaren will follow suit too.

If the FIA can't stop it, 'McLaren have to change its wing quick' to follow suit.


11 thoughts on “Analysing the concept of conflicting front wing concepts

  1. A very biased view I have to say – with very little evidence to back anything up.

    All cars violate 3.15. I very much doubt that a longitudinal force “switches” off the rigidity of the RB6 wing; that would be far too risky IMO.

    • “All cars violate”? False, because most of them violate minorly and in an acceptable way, without gaining significant benefits from it. These teams purposefully designed their wings that way, which shows they are respecting the rules stated in 3.15, and fear of the power described in 3.17.8.

      Architects are expert in statics. It isn’t risky at all. There’s no full switch off, just a finely calculated and fully predictable statical changing designed to achieve the main goal.

      Time will tell, what’s the truth.

      But I recommend to everyone to say bye-bye to the Red Bull-type front wing, because it’s freaking illegal, FIA clearly knows this, just needs time to find the right way to eliminate it.

  2. Violation is violation no matter how much – other than when people like to use it in their arguments… So a little bit illegal is ok then? thats what you are saying? Not sure about that one!

    Its too risky as its too easy to discover with a new test which the FIA can implement. This would be like a hidden fuel tank… Its not what Red Bull are doing.

    I bet that Red Bull turn up in Spa with exactly the same design philosophy front wings and that they pass any test the FIA conjure up.

    But time will tell like you say. I just don’t agree with your posts – you are clearly a McLaren fan.

    • It is matter how much and for what reasons. Small flexing is allowed by the rules, because rule interpretation is understanding physics and accepts such small flexing which aren’t purposefully designed for significant benefits.

      It’s Newey’s way, it isn’t risky, because the FIA won’t change its testing methods without prior noticing, that’s its habit. And if the RB6 would be found illegal under the scrutiny, Red Bull would make it legal for the qualy or race, as they use to do, according to James Allen. There was such incidents documented for this year too. The Red Bull mechanics worked hard, changed and fixed the pointed part to make it legal for the next day.

      I could guess too, what fan you are, but you don’t have to accept my opinion.

      The points what we arguing on were just sidenotes rooting from the main subject wich could be too short for a decent article, so I weaved related subject into it.

      The main thing is a prediction of McLaren adapting the flexi-wing concept, if the FIA won’t eliminate it soon. Expressing this shouldn’t bother you, whatever fan you are. :)

  3. Great commentary – thanks for the info.

    My fist reaction: the FIA should perform a static test with two weights: one pulling down and one pulling back. Would this work? If I read Penti’s description correctly, the aero force causes the wing to deform and allow the structure to “slacken”. Hence, the RB6 would be immune to static tests. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Thanks again,

    • If done correctly, that would work, but must be precisely tuned regarding the forces and the multipoints of the loads. That’s why it is tough for the FIA, because for that they should have serious and precise insider knowledge about the given wing.

      The horizontal load starts to act upon the wing, including the key parts which play the main role in its statics structure. This load, which accurs only when the car is moving, decreases the inertia of the ‘pillar part’ and because of this the wing will be less resisting to vertical load, hence starts do deflect toward the ground. The wing never becomes too weak, (and the key structural part won’t twist big and significant for this,) just becomes less resisting (by a tuned and calculated amount) to the huge forces what the flaps get at the desired speed combined with it can allow the end plate area to be sucked to the ground by temporary ground effect.

      • I have another theory for you….

        How about the wing is on the legal limit for vertical flex/deflection and the rest is in car setup, rake etc…

        Clearly the fia section of the RB6 is lower than other cars – this is not illegal i might add.

        Why is it people come up with the most complex solutions to things when there are much simpler ones available?

        And for your info HL – the FIA tested the RB6 floor differently (higher load) without telling them that they would in Hungary so the FIA doesn’t have to give notice although as you say it usually does.

        As regard to James Allen’s comments… I don’t buy it, the might have been the occasional incident ie the floor in monaco (RB approached the FIA about their interpretation and the FIA accepted it was legal, they only changed their minds when paddy lowe asked questions about it when he saw it on the grid in spain)

  4. A very good and interesting blog. I wait with immense interest to see if the FIA remain a toothless dog or prove themselves.

  5. Very well written article & a thumbs up to Mr Penti for his excellent insight. I am sure the RBR & Ferrari wing are clearly illegal & grossly violate 3.15. Hope the FIA do not waste anymore time in clarifying this. It is costing precious time & championship points for mclaren.

  6. Nem tudok teljesen angolul ezért csak néhány fejtegetésedbe olvastam bele. Nagyon tetszett. Nem tudnád az egészet magyarul légyszi :)

  7. Pingback: Red Bull front wing – An architect’s view | Hunnylander's Blog

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